Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Kischa Ford. I’m a Capricorn, a pancake enthusiast and a formidable thumb wrestler. I was raised by three generations of seamstresses, and my lust for all things vintage first began when flipping through the pages of the family photo album. Early on, I used the sewing skills they passed down to recreate my own versions of their clothes. In high school, I began to comb thrift stores and boutiques for the real thing, but it wasn’t until I was pursuing a degree in fashion design that I decided to ease my shopper’s guilt by turning it into a business. Bread & Butter Vintage was born.
Apart from collecting and curating, what do you do?
I’m a born and raised denizen of New York City, where you’d be hard-pressed to find a creative professional who does only one thing. Along with running the shop, I’m a burgeoning wardrobe stylist & photographer, and I just recently launched my blog, Brand New Heirloom, so my plate is pretty full. Perhaps one the most glorious benefits of self-employment is that I’ve integrated nearly all my passions into my livelihood, so despite the long hours, I never quite feel like I’m working.
In my off time, I enjoy seeking out historical areas of the city, hosting decadent brunches, and playing drag queen bingo.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Probably the one I use for my blog: Brand New Heirloom. I’m always taking old finds and making them new — I have a knack for making new things look like they were discovered in grandma’s attic. But most importantly, in a culture where so much has become disposable, I’m devoted to the notion of holding on to objects and passing them on.
Do you have any personal collections? How did they start?
I have an insatiable addiction to statement rings, nylon nightgowns, clutch purses, Art Deco brooches, box cameras, and Carnaby Street-era winter coats.
Save for an exceptional 6-carat tourmaline ring passed down from my mom, most everything was acquired on my hunts.
What decade or style inspires you?
I’m partial to the Depression-era ingénue, the 1970s collegiate, and the 1960s French gamine, but I like to draw from every era, mix things up and add touches of the millennium.
What are the challenges of finding great vintage?
To begin with, you’re dealing in goods with a finite supply, the demand for which is growing ever larger as buyers are choosing to eschew mass-produced fast fashion for more unique and eco-friendly options. All of this makes it more expensive and harder to find. Even as items from more recent eras are becoming classified as “vintage,” they often lack the quality, craftsmanship, and detail that cause many shoppers to gravitate to vintage in the first place. Most every vintage clothing seller has been forced to widen the net beyond local thrift and get industrious about their sourcing. If I knew in my early thrifting days what I know now, I would have grabbed every lovely vintage thing I came across.
What’s the most interesting backstory of an object you’ve acquired?
A close friend of mine consigned me a gorgeous 1920s Art Deco purse which once belonged to his grandmother. She was an antiquities dealer and fled Europe during the German occupation. He always had the bawdiest and most charming stories to tell about her and his grandfather.
And one of my favorite personal pieces, a 1960s leopard coat, previously belonged to a gangster’s moll.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Any of the early couturiers, particularly Madame Grès. I checked out her exhibit at the FIT Museum a few years ago and was blown away. Her technique was astounding and her secrets very well-kept.
I also wish I’d been in the recording studio the day Pink Floyd got Clare Torry to lay down the vocal track for “The Great Gig in The Sky,” attended Wattstax, or had a chance to see Nina Simone perform live in Paris.
Was there an object that was particularly hard for you to give up? If so, why?
Usually when a piece really lends itself to my personal style it ends up in my closet, but I sold a 1920s flapper fringe blouse and a 1980s Christian Lacroix sweater coat that were both such bold and attention-grabbing pieces that I would’ve loved to have had an occasion to wear them out, just once. To my delight, both buyers let know me how overjoyed they were and how many compliments they’d received while wearing them. That made it more than worth it. Knowing that the articles I’ve selected and sent out into the world are being worn with pride, care, love and style is really the greatest satisfaction I can hope for as a vintage seller.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
The thing is, I know I’m still learning. Like everyone, I get caught in moments (or weeks) of self-doubt, but I find it near impossible to get bogged down by creative block so long as I acknowledge that there are still new techniques, methods, or materials I can explore. Sometimes that something new is simple as discovering a home remedy for stain removal or the surprising effectiveness of a plastic grocery bag as a makeshift flash diffuser. I can’t help but feel a childlike sense of excitement and accomplishment at these tiny conquers and gains. The way I see it, if I can get a stubborn dye bleed out of fifty-year-old silk organza or complete a professional photo shoot on a drum-tight budget, I can do anything.
And the beauty of running a vintage boutique is that you’re, quite literally, surrounded by a constantly regenerating source of inspiration. The greater challenge for me is managing my time in a way that allows me to execute the many ideas I’ve jotted down in my notebook or whittling my often quixotic vision for a project down to something that can be accomplished within the available means.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would love to establish and direct a co-op of vintage collectors and artisans working from repurposed vintage materials. Maybe even take it global. Quixotic, remember? But I’d be perfectly content just to have my own little boutique storefront, stuffed to the hilt with vintage gems with an apartment above it and a rooftop garden.